Scientists say that the information provided by the Mars Curiosity Rover suggests that the now-dry planet had a vast ocean bigger than Earth's Arctic Ocean for approximately 1.5 billion years. Researchers say this is plenty of time for life to thrive. However, over the last 3.7 billion years, the planet has all but dried out, resulting in the barren planet we see today.
The Daily Mail reports that scientists have uncovered a series of "veins" on Mars that indicate water once flowed through the region. The Curiosity Rover discovered the strange veins while studying a region of Mars known as "Garden City." The area is located on Mount Sharp and features a large network of ridges with multicolor veins.
Scientists claim that the ridges were created from water that flowed on the surface billions of years ago. The veins are different colors and indicate that water flowed through the area, causing different minerals to deposit in the area.
"These materials tell us about secondary fluids that were transported through the region after the host rock formed. Veins such as these form where fluids move through cracked rock and leave minerals in the fractures, often affecting the chemistry of the rock surrounding the fractures."
The researchers note that there are two separate and distinct liquid flows indicated by the rock formations. This means that there were two separate wet periods in Mars' past. Researchers noted a difference in the mineral composition of the previously wet area with that which is dry. They used that data to piece together the best estimate to date of Mars' watery past.
Scientists have used Curiosity Rover data to estimate that Mars was once covered with more water than Earth's Arctic Ocean. The water would have been present for approximately 1.5 billion years before beginning its dry spell. Scientists say that at least 87 percent of its water was lost in the last 3.5 billion years, leaving the planet dry as we see it today.
With 1.5 billion years of surface water, scientists say that is plenty of time for life to have formed on the planet. However, scientists have yet to find any remaining glimpses of life on the dry and barren surface. Scientists say they will continue to look for more clues on the surface of Mars, particularly near Mount Sharp.
What do you think about the possibility of Mars having such a watery past? Do you think Mars once hosted life or do you think life still exists somewhere on the planet yet to be found?
[Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS]